Illuminated River

This transformative project will create a single lighting scheme for Central London’s bridges in order to connect, celebrate and capture the spirit of the Thames and its communities. 

At 2.5 miles long it will be the largest piece of public art in the world – stretching from Albert Bridge in the west to Tower Bridge in the east.

Illuminated River London Bridges by Leo Villareal with Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands

Sarah Gaventa Director of the Illuminated River Foundation gave the first public  talk about the concept by US artist Leo Villareal (with British architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands) to create a subtle kinetic LED light sculpture that will unify and light up the bridges of central London.


The audience for the talk was the London Society and the first question was about funding.  Sarah explained that following generous support from the Arcadia Fund, the Rothschild Foundation and the City of London Corporation, plus seed money from the mayor, the foundation is committed to raising the remainder from private and philanthropic sources, with no further public funding being sought.


Starting in 2019 in the east, the team plan to illuminate three or four bridges per year as this is a complex project involving multiple local authorities and stakeholders.The illuminations are being designed to last at least 10 years and then Londoners will have a say in their future.


The Mayor of London supports the project and said: “The Illuminated River will give London free art. The project also means that a wasted asset and wasted resource will now be used. The team have thought through how the project is sustainable, how it will be energy efficient and use less energy.”

By removing excessive light spill on the bridges and direct light into the river, it will also help improve the natural environment for the flora and fauna of the Thames. 


Thames Estuary Partnership is one of several partners on this project including the Environment Agency, the Port of London Authority, Transport for London and Tideway.


External Sources:

Illuminated River Project

Illuminated River Foundation